Singapore

Tengah Air Base to be expanded

Farms, graves to make way for expansion while closure of Paya Lebar Air Base will free up 800ha

A World War II airbase in north-western Singapore will get new facilities and a substantial injection of land to spread its wings.

To make way, some 80,000 graves will be exhumed while six farms will be acquired or not have their leases renewed.

The exercise will yield over 106ha of land - a quarter the size of Clementi town - to enable the 78-year-old Tengah Air Base to expand.

It, together with Changi Air Base, will take in the assets of the Paya Lebar Air Base (PLAB), which will move out from 2030.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman last night said the expansion will allow Tengah Air Base to house aircraft assets, operational flying and support squadrons and other facilities from PLAB. It will also have a new runway, he said, adding that there will be "net land savings" from the relocation.

The PLAB move was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in 2013 when he said it would free up 800ha for new homes, offices, factories and parks and remove height restrictions around the base.

To accommodate a bigger Tengah Air Base, Choa Chu Kang Cemetery, the only active burial ground and biggest cemetery here, will lose 100ha, a third of its 318ha area.

Some 45,500 Chinese graves and 35,000 Muslim graves will be exhumed in phases. Graves older than 17 years will be exhumed first - from the last quarter of 2018 - while newer graves will be exhumed from a date to be announced later.

The Government will bear the costs of exhumation, as well as the cremation for Chinese remains and the reinterment for Muslim ones.

Meanwhile, four plots of private land - affecting three fish farms and a nursery - will be acquired in 2019, and compensated based on market value on the date of acquisition. The lease of a vegetable farm that expires in 2019 will not be renewed.

The total affected farmland area adds up to about 6.3ha.

The farms, which were notified yesterday, can continue operations until January 2019.

Some owners are worried that they may not find alternative sites within 18 months.

Said Mr Bernard Goh, a supervisor at Sevenseas Fisheries at Murai Farmway: "It is difficult to find a suitable plot of land with the right water quality."

A third change will see the existing Lim Chu Kang Road realigned.

The affected portion includes a 1.8km heritage road, one of five in Singapore characterised by their tall, mature trees with overarching tree canopies.

Agencies are looking at mitigation strategies, including transplanting the trees.

In a joint statement, the Ministry of National Development, National Environment Agency and Singapore Land Authority said the Government had "considered all alternatives" in developing this plan, and took into account "our national defence and security needs, as well as the overall benefits of moving PLAB in the longer-term".

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